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2020 Update: SPARC Landscape Analysis & Roadmap for Action

This report takes a look at the events of the past year—particularly the global COVID health crisis and its resulting economic impact—and provides updates on the academic publishing market landscape and the status of the key companies involved.

Table of Contents

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Aspesi, C., Allen, N. S., Crow, R., Joseph, H., McArthur, J. T., & Shockey, N. (2020, June 22). 2020 Update: SPARC Landscape Analysis & Roadmap for Action. ,


Aspesi, Claudio, et al. “2020 Update: SPARC Landscape Analysis & Roadmap for Action.” , 22 Jun. 2020, .


Aspesi, Claudio, Nicole S. Allen, Raym Crow, Heather Joseph, Joseph T. W. McArthur, and Nick Shockey. 2020. “2020 Update: SPARC Landscape Analysis & Roadmap for Action.” , June 22.

  • Background

    What does the landscape, and path to action, look like one year after our initial analysis?

  • Publicly Listed Companies

    The companies that are fully or partially owned by private equity (PE) companies (Springer Nature Group, McGraw-Hill Education and Cengage), all have significant debt.

  • Emerging Concerns: The Bigger Deal

    Novel agreements like the Elsevier/Dutch Institution deal are highly problematic and concerning. Institutions and consortia should consider and robustly debate the ramifications of these decisions, before pursuing what may prove to be partial and short-lived benefits.

  • Update to the Roadmap for Action

    Acting in conditions of high uncertainty is particularly difficult. These are actions that libraries, in particular, and academic institutions, in general, could take regardless of the current situation.

  • A Time for Radical Change

    Use this opportunity not just to reopen the current academic system but also to make substantive progress toward building a more equitable and open one.

  • Appendix: Scholarly Journals

    The scholarly journals business is still on a path to raising its profitability, but pricing pressures will intensify and we see substantial stagnation of subscription revenues.

  • Appendix: Courseware

    Can digital revenues return the courseware business to growth or will they be insufficient to compensate the accelerated decline of print revenues?

  • Appendix: The Industry Response

    Most of the leading publishers strengthened their digital and data analytics offerings in 2019, and have continued to do so into 2020.